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Food Editors Work to Close Gap Between Farmers, Consumers
In a world where consumers want to know how their food is produced, editors Claire Brown and Joe Fassler are working to close the communication gap between consumers and farmers across the nation. Both Brown and Fassler travel the country speaking with consumers, food scientists, and farmers covering topics from the farm to the table. An award-winning, nonprofit newsroom in Brooklyn, New York, The New Food Economy investigates the forces shaping how and what Americans eat.
Brown and Fassler sat down with Successful Farming to discuss how farmers are changing the grocery shopping industry and how they can make the new food economy system work.
SF: What do farmers and consumers need to know to make the new food economy work?
CB: Each other.
JF: One of the biggest things we’re trying to do is get to a place where both farmers and consumers are having this conversation of working together. In the work that we do, we notice consumers are having one conversation and farmers are having a completely different one. Oftentimes they involve economics or the same sort of concerns, but most of the time they both are completely different. If a consumer wants a different or better product, they don’t understand the reality of what a farmer has to do to make it economically and feasibly possible. So, what we are see is very little communication between the two. That’s the reason we exist – to help facilitate this conversation so there is more of a sense what is happening here in Iowa and communicating that back to consumers in Brooklyn, New York.
SF: How have farmers changed the way people shop for groceries?
CB: A number of farmers have done some really great work in developing online CSA (community-supported agriculture) brands where they can reach a lot more people than they are able to at farmers markets or tasting events. Consumers have done a wonderful job of making those platforms work for them.
JF: I think a lot of farmers get shut out of working with grocery stores because they are communicating through a distributor or processor. Some grocers and farmers are doing a really great job on a smaller scale to find new and innovative ways to cut out the middle man and have farmers sell directly to the stores. When farmers are able to sell their products with their farm’s brand, it becomes more transparent and creates a shorter supply chain overall.
SF: As an organization, what is something you hope to see from the 2018 farm bill?
CB: We’d really like to see more voices coming to the floor. A coalition of Native Americans started speaking out a couple of weeks ago who said their voices weren’t heard in the farm bill. Those are the kind of different organizations we’re looking for because that’s something new and interesting to us.
JF: We’d also really like to see some overall interest in the farm bill, not just with farmers, but with all consumers. We’d love to see everyday Americans, who have nothing to do with food production, realize that this bill has an enormous impact over what they eat and become invested in it. That would be a really exciting thing for farmers and society to see.